CableLabs develops Dual Channel Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi home
According to CableLabs, Dual Channel Wi-Fi addresses congestion issues by providing one or more channels for downstream-only data in addition to the primary bi-directional channel. (Pixabay)

CableLabs is working with Wi-Fi ecosystem partners to advance a technology called Dual Channel Wi-Fi, which is designed to improve the performance of Wi-Fi so it delivers a stronger and more reliable connection. 

It’s not intended to compete with cellular’s 5G technology, according to CableLabs’ Chief Technology Officer Belal Hamzeh.

Of course, cellular’s 5G and Wi-Fi’s Dual Channel are part of two different ecosystems, but CableLabs doesn't see 5G, two-channel Wi-Fi or the cable industry's "10G" as competing with one another. “We actually see them as complementary to each other,” he said.

Earlier this year, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, CableLabs and Cable Europe joined hands on the conveniently name "10G," which has been trademarked by the NCTA. 

The 10G access network movement is already underway. A timeline provided by CableLabs shows it starting with Version 1, which is where Wi-Fi 6 comes in, along with speeds of 1 Gbps to the end user. Version 2, which comes with Wi-Fi 7, will deliver 5 Gbps, and Version 3 will deliver 10 Gbps, which is there the “10G” comes in.

Dual Channel Wi-Fi is part of the industry’s plan to create faster speeds, lower latency, higher security levels and reliability in Wi-Fi.

“When we say we’re raising the bar on the speed, we’re not only raising the bar on the speed, we’re raising the bar on latency [and] security,” and those go hand in hand, Hamzeh said.

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According to CableLabs, this is how Dual Channel Wi-Fi works: Wi-Fi users currently have access to only one channel at a time. Because that one channel is both for sending and receiving, devices often have to wait, which can result in buffering, frame freezing, pixelation and other side effects.

Dual Channel Wi-Fi solves this issue by adding one or more data channels. The primary channel is used for upstream and small downstream data packets, and the others are used for large downstream and time-critical data, like video.

Because Dual Channel Wi-Fi is not limited to one downlink-only data channel, deployments in venues such as stadiums, airports or outdoor arenas can also benefit, according to a blog post by Luther Smith, director, wireless technology at CableLabs. Dual Channel Wi-Fi’s configurable filters can selectively assign, move or remove devices from individual downlink-only data channels.

Dual Channel Wi-Fi is compatible with all Wi-Fi releases, and it has been tested on various access points and client platforms, including RDK-B, RDK-V, Ubuntu, Windows, MacOS and OpenWrt, which was co-implemented by Edgewater Wireless. One of the next steps for CableLabs is to work with standards bodies, ISPs and device manufacturers of video set tops, streaming devices, laptops, tablets and gaming consoles.

It's possible that devices taking advantage of Dual Channel Wi-Fi could be on the market by 2020.